Obama to colleges: Keep costs down, or risk losing funding

“I intend to fight obstruction with action,” the president said.

In a State of the Union address that was as much a campaign speech as a call to action, President Obama challenged lawmakers to invest more money in education and research to “prepare for the jobs of tomorrow.” He also called on higher-education leaders to make college more affordable for Americans—or risk losing federal support.

Facing a deeply divided Congress, Obama appealed for lawmakers to send him legislation on a host of issues, including education, clean energy, housing, and immigration reform—knowing full well the election-year prospects are bleak but aware that polls show the independent voters who lifted him to the presidency crave bipartisanship.

The president contrasted the selflessness and teamwork of the American troops who took out Osama Bin Laden with the gridlock that exists in Congress.…Read More

More Americans skeptical of higher education

Americans believe higher education can trim budgetary 'fat,' according to a survey
Americans believe higher education can trim budgetary 'fat,' according to a survey.

An increasing percentage of Americans believe colleges and universities prioritize profit margin over educational quality—a claim educators refute as misguided and unfair, especially during the current economic downturn.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, along with Public Agenda, released a report Feb. 17 that highlights respondents’ discontent with the rising costs of college education. The survey, titled, “Squeeze Play 2010: Continued Public Anxiety on Cost, Harsher Judgments on How Colleges are Run,” shows that six out of 10 Americans now say “colleges today operate more like a business,” taking focus away from academics.

In 2008, 55 percent of respondents said universities were more concerned about the bottom line, an increase from 52 percent in 2007.…Read More

Experts split: Are FY11 student aid increases enough?

One financial aid expert said Pell Grants would have to be doubled to increase the number of degree-holding Americans.
One financial aid expert said Pell Grant amounts would have to be doubled to increase the number of degree-holding Americans.

President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget includes $156 billion in student aid, a second consecutive increase in Pell Grant funds, and a lower cap for student loan repayments—but financial aid officials said the proposals fall short of policy changes that would make college universally accessible.

The president’s budget, released Feb. 1, raises Pell Grants from $5,500 to $5,710. The Pell Grant program would see a $17 billion increase under the administration’s plan; Obama boosted Pell Grants by 13 percent in his fiscal 2010 budget. The budget calls for linking Pell Grant increases to the annual inflation rate plus 1 percent, making the maximum Pell Grant nearly $7,000 in 10 years.

The administration’s student aid package marks a 60-percent increase since 2008.…Read More

Students use iPods, iPhones to grade Obama’s address

Abilene Christian students answered about 50 questions on their iPhones and iPods during President Obama's address.
Abilene Christian students answered 50 questions on their iPhones and iPods during Obama's address.

It’s the stuff that makes political pollsters salivate: 30 Abilene Christian University students used iPhones and iPod Touches to respond to President Obama’s Jan. 27 State of the Union address in real time, and a campus technology official said the exercise offered insight into boosting student participation in class.

Abilene Christian was among the country’s first campuses to bring iPhones to students when the school gave the devices to incoming freshmen last school year. Freshmen and sophomores now have university-issued iPhones or iPod Touches, and professors from the political science and journalism programs assembled 30 students to gauge reaction during Obama’s first State of the Union speech.

“It was a helpful exercise because … we were able to see if an interactive environment helped students engage in politics differently,” said Dennis Marquardt, Abilene Christian’s educational technology manager, who helped oversee the project. “It helped us understand where students were coming from a little bit more.”…Read More

Obama: College affordability a key priority

Education was a key part of President Obama's State of the Union address.
Education was a key part of President Obama's State of the Union address.

Education is one of the few areas of the federal budget that would not see a spending freeze, if President Barack Obama gets his way this year—and making college more affordable will be one of his main priorities.

In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 27, Obama called on Congress to finish work on a measure to revitalize community colleges. And he called for a $10,000 tax credit to families for four years of college, as well as an increase in Pell Grants.

“In the 21st century, one of the best anti-poverty programs is a world-class education,” Obama said.…Read More